Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
Virginia: Development of Ashley Farms Project, Chancellorsville Battlefield
Agency: Army Corps of Engineers
Criterion for Council Involvement:
- The proposed development would occur on a portion of Chancellorsville Battlefield, destroying the integrity of the site of the heaviest fighting of the first day of this important Civil War battle (Criterion 1).
On January 24, 2000, Council staff met with representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers, the Virginia State Historic Preservation Officer, the National Park Service (NPS), Spotsylvania County, and the project developer to review plans for a commercial and residential development to be located on a portion of the Chancellorsville Battlefield near Fredericksburg.
The purpose of the meeting was to ensure that all consulting parties understood the project’s scope and the requirements for its review under Section 106. The Council will follow up the meeting with a letter to the Secretary of the Army stating its intention to participate in the consultation process for this project.
The Norfolk District of the Corps is reviewing a request for Section 404 permits under the Clean Water Act for the Ashley Farms Project. Preliminary plans are to develop the approximately 800-acre, privately owned parcel with homes, a golf course, and an office park. (Corps permits are required for placement of fill in approximately three acres of waters and wetlands necessary for the commercial development and golf course.)
The property lies along a busy corridor west of Fredericksburg and is adjacent to one of NPS’s major Civil War parks, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.
The proposed development is situated directly where the heaviest fighting took place on the first day of the battle of Chancellorsville: May 1, 1863. The three-day battle stopped the Army of the Potomac from wresting Fredericksburg with its vital rail, road, and river connections from the Confederates. Chancellorsville was the last battle where Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson fought together against Union forces; on the second day of the battle, Jackson was mortally wounded.
Nearby Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park includes portions of the area of the climatic second and third days’ fighting. Because of development pressures, NPS has designated Chancellorsville a Priority 1 Endangered Civil War Battlefield.
This project underscores the need to integrate historic preservation considerations at the local level, since the property in question is privately owned. Since residential and commercial development on private land guided by local planning initiatives also threatens Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, the challenge is to find a balance between redevelopment in the area and NPS’s goal to interpret the battle in its entiretyincluding significant areas outside park boundaries.
Private ownership of the land raises questions regarding the role of a Federal agency in a permit review activity on private land and the need to carefully consider the balance between private property rights and the need to preserve our historic past. In this case the Corps only has jurisdiction over a very small portion of the entire parcel slated for development, limiting the ability of the Federal government to promote preservation of the site through the Section 106 process.
Staff contact: Tom McCulloch
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